Mystery deepens over city’s missing cruise passenger

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THE happy-go-lucky dad who mysteriously vanished from a cruise liner was known as ‘John the Book Man’ by companies throughout the city.

Affable John Halford ran the Bargain Book Company, dropping off gifts and books to hundreds of businesses for workers to buy.

The 63-year-old, who was due to celebrate his silver wedding anniversary to wife Ruth in June, “disappeared into thin air” during a cruise trip which had always been his dream.

He set off on the seven-day Thomson’s trip on March 31, kissing his wife and three children goodbye at their Greenleys home.

“He’d always wanted to go on a cruise. It was something he wanted to do before he got too old,” said 45-year-old Ruth, who works as a medical secretary at Watling Vale surgery.

“He’d been getting a bit of arthritis in his hip so he decided now was the time. He’s a sociable man who makes friends easily and we were only too happy for him to do this alone.”

On April 6, the night before John was due to dock and fly home, he texted Ruth from the ship to tell her his flight details.

“I was preparing to meet him from the airport the next day when Thomson’s rang me. They said John had vanished... I couldn’t take it in – it was almost surreal,” she said.

Thomson’s records show he was last seen on board the Thomson Spirit at 11.45pm on April 6, drinking cocktails in the bar when the ship was approaching its final port.

But by 7am the following morning, when other passengers were disembarking at Sharm-el-Sheikh, there was no trace of him.

The case has been investigated by the foreign office in Egypt and police. This week, as the four week anniversary approached, Ruth agreed to make a last-ditch plea to the public.#

“If anyone has seen him or knows what happened that night it would be so helpful. Not knowing is terrible and it is getting worse and worse by the day.”

Tragically, Ruth admits she fears the worst. “I think he’s gone overboard,” she said. “At first I was full of hope but as time goes on I can think of no other reason for his disappearance.

“He was happy, certainly not depressed, enjoying his cruise and meeting people but looking forward to getting home again to be with me and the children. I can only assume there was a freak accident and he somehow slipped into the sea.”

Thomson, who have so far not commented on the case, broke their silence to tell the Citizen it would have been “virtually impossible” for 5ft 6ins tall John to stumble overboard.

“The rails would have been chest height on him. They are designed to prevent people from accidentally falling or stumbling into the sea,” said a spokesman.

Meanwhile John’s two youngest children, 18-year-old Sophie and Connor, 16, are both about to take their exams at Stantonbury Campus. The eldest child Lucy is a shop assistant.

“It’s terrible for the children. We are trying to cope together and not to give up hope but it is so difficult,” said Ruth.

She is urging anyone with information to contact police on 0845 8 505 505 or Crimestopper anonymously on 0800 555 111. Mr Halford is one of 150 people reported missing from cruise ships in various parts of the world in the past decade.